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Portable Brick Oven Classes with David S. Cargo

Learn how to build a portable stacked-brick oven from award-winning baker, David S. Cargo, at several convenient locations.

For information on past classes, see here.

For more info on the features, advantages, and disadvantages of these portable brick ovens, see here.

For info on the requirements for hosting a portable brick oven class, see here.

Classes are usually on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. I sometimes have to squeeze the class into 9 to 4, 9:30 to 4:30, or 10 to 5. Classes further away from the Twin Cities tend to have later starting times to simplify my travel arrangements. Other times, the hours of the facility hosting the class determines the starting and ending times. (If you are scheduling a private class, it could be during the week, and the times could be more flexible.)

David S. Cargo standing on an oven

This is an image from the Sept. 11, 2010 class at Silverwood Park. I stand on the finished oven to show how strong it is. (Ovens built from new bricks look much more regular and are prettier.)

I have taught this class over 50 times. I’ve had hundreds of students.

I believe it to be the most popular oven-building class in the United States, based on the number of classes, the number of locations, and the number of students who have attended. In 2016 and 2017 the class is scheduled in four states.

If you do a search on Google for “minnesota oven class” or “wisconsin oven class”, a link to this page is often the first link that wasn’t paid for.

This class was also mentioned in From the Wood-Fired Oven by Richard Miscovich, published by Chelsea Green.

My class is again a scheduled workshop at the Kneading Conference in Skowhegen, Maine on July 27-28. It’s part of the conference program, so you had to be registered for the conference first before you could sign up for my workshop. (My workshop at the conference last year was filled, with one man driving all the way from Ohio just to attend my class.)

Other future classes

Wherever I can find interest in my classes, I will try to find a folk school or other community education organization to act as host for my class. Sometimes these negotiations result in a class being scheduled.

If any of the locations listed below would be interest to you as a student wanting to attend one of my classes, you should contact the appropriate site and let them know you are interested. They would probably respond well to any expression of interest.

I contacted Greg Weiss, the director of Lost Creek Adventures about bringing my class to northern Wisconsin. Contact him (through his web site) if you are interested in having him host my class.

I contacted the Cedar Root Folk School in Washington State to have a class. Contact them through their web site if you are interested in having them host my class.

I contacted the Two Rivers Folk School near the Twin Cities about hosting a class. They are interested, but no class has been scheduled yet.

I contacted the Rail River Folk School near Bemidji about hosting a class. They are interested, but no class has been scheduled yet.

I have contacted the Ely Folk School about hosting a class. They are interested, but no class has been scheduled yet.

So far these contacts have not resulted in any classes being scheduled.

There may be additional classes scheduled in 2017. Private classes are welcomed as well.

2017 Classes

If you were thinking of classes for 2017 but didn’t find a date, perhaps you should look to scheduling a date in 2018.

Date Host State Status
05/06/17 White Bear Center for the Arts MN registration link
05/13/17 Tunnel Mill MN registration link
05/20/17 Gale Woods Farm MN registration link
05/27/17 Abundantly Green WA registration link
06/03/17 Dakota College ND committed, planning in progres
06/10/17 Borner Farm Project WI registration link
06/17/17 Running Dog Ranch WI registration link
06/24/17 Reserved for an SPBC meeting MN Not applicable
07/08/17 Reserved for Convergence MN Not applicable
07/08/17 Reserved for travel NA Not applicable
07/08/17 Reserved for travel NA Not applicable
07/27/17 Kneading Conference ME preregistration opens April 1 and closes May 1
08/05/17 Hamline Church MN scheduled
08/19/17 Borner Farm Project WI registration link
08/26/17 Abundantly Green WA registration link
09/02/17 Food Farm MN still in planning stages
09/09/17 Running Dog Ranch WI registration link
09/16/17 Minnesota Guild of Metalsmiths MN scheduled
10/14/17 Borner Farm Project WI registration link

The class arranged by Dakota College will be held at gardendwellers FARM.

2018 Classes

I haven’t started booking classes for 2018.

Class Location Map

Here’s a map I created to show where the some current and past scheduled classes are located. (I don’t know where in Red Wing their next class will be, so it’s not on the map.)

Class Description

Here is the brief description of the class:

Build and Bake in a Portable Brick Oven – Join David S. Cargo to learn how to build a portable stacked-brick oven. After the oven is built, it will be fired up while students learn how to make dough for flatbreads, pizza, and bread. Bake all these in the brick oven and then eat them.

You will leave with knowledge of building stacked brick ovens, plans for three different sizes of ovens, and practice in baking in these ovens.

Class typically runs 9am-5pm with a 1-hour break starting a noon for students to have lunch. (Lunch is typically not provided in the class registration fee. Different venues might have facilities available for people to buy lunch or people might have to travel somewhere to buy lunch or bring it with them.)

The longer description of the class is more interesting

These portable brick ovens are portable because they can be moved once they have been built. They are built from stacked bricks that are not mortared together. If you need to move the oven, you can just move the bricks and restack them to rebuild the oven at its new location.

You can build a small oven by yourself in about an hour. You can go from bare ground to cooking pizza in about 4 hours. Class discussion covers some of the differences between these portable brick ovens and more familiar designs such as Alan Scott ovens, Forno Bravo Pompeii ovens, and cob ovens such as those made popular by Kiko Denzer.

The class covers siting the oven, preparing the ground for the oven, and then the practical techniques for construction. Every student gets a handout with plans for three different sizes of ovens, their bills of materials, and recipes for use with the oven.

In the class we build an oven. It’s built to demonstrate the techniques and how to read the plans that show how the ovens go Together. After it’s built, it’s fired for four hours to get it up to baking temperature (usually 800 degrees or more).

If the class is taught where there are enough bricks to build a second oven, the second oven is built, torn down, and rebuilt by different teams of students so that they can practice the construction techniques.

While the fire is heating the oven up, David demonstrates how to make the doughs for pizza and bread, for naan, and for pita bread.

Later in the afternoon, the doughs are formed into the proper shapes for baking, and some dough is formed for a loaf of bread. Finally, the pita bread, naan, and pizzas are baked (and eaten) and then the loaf of bread goes into the oven.

pizza in oven pizzas in oven

Photos courtesy of Jeff Schalles, 2012.

Students who have taken the class and completed evaluations have said how much they enjoyed the class. They learned to appreciate the advantages and disadvantages of stacked-brick ovens compared to more well-known Alan Scott, Pompeii, and cob oven designs. People who had been intimidated by the other construction techniques expressed amazement at how quick and easy it is to build a portable oven.

(This class includes elements of other classes that I teach, including Bread Without Fear, Feast of Flatbreads, and No-Knead Breads. Their descriptions are here .)

Class Format

The process of building the oven is hands-on for all of the students.

Because the oven is too small to bake all the dough that could be made by all the students in the class, the baking portion of the class is demonstration and tasting.

If the oven in the class is heated up adequately, pretty much all the dough for naan and pita bread will be baked, as well as four or more pizzas and a loaf of bread.

Locations and Registration Information

Registration for classes is handled by each location, not by David.

Note that some of these locations are for past events, kept for completeness.

Class Fees

Class fees for the classes at each location are set by that location. (Each location handles its own registration.)

Class Evaluations

The students taking the oven-building class have been impressed by how quickly and simply an oven can be built.

A few students have volunteered that class tuition could be higher, since what was taught was so valuable. That were interesting comments, but I haven’t changed prices yet.

Class E-Mail List

An e-mail list for people interested in recipes, updates on class schedules, and questions and answers is available. Sign up by sending e-mail to escargo@skypoint.com

Additional Class Locations

If you are interested in hosting an oven-building class, check the class requirements. This can be a great way to have help building an oven for yourself, and getting help paying for it as well.

Alternatively, if you already have a big pile of 9-inch straight firebricks, and you don’t mind if they get a bit used, you have the most important ingredient for hosting the class.

I am especially interested in additional locations in or near the Twin Cities, but I will consider more distant locations if requirements can be met. It could be a good way for you or your organization to generate some publcity.

(Since the ovens are frequently built and rebuilt, you can host the class multiple times and eventually pay for all the fire brick, provided of course that enough people attend over time.)

I’m willing to travel to teach the class, but the further way from the Twin Cities, the more I need to earn to cover my travel expenses. That might mean that the fees you have to charge for the class will need to be higher or that the minimum number of students for teaching the class has to increase.

We can negotiate.

About the Instructor

David S. Cargo is one of the founding members of the Saint Paul Bread Club a former baker at Trotter’s Cafe and Bakery, a former baker at the St. Agnes Baking Company, and a featured baker in Kim Ode’s cookbook, Baking with the Saint Paul Bread Club: Recipes, Tips, and Stories.

two small ovens

This is an image from the first oven class at French Hill Folk School in 2010, showing two ovens side by side.